Bloggers, like members of the press, often quote industry insiders and experts. Conversely, vendors sometimes like to quote bloggers and members of the press, particularly if they have a large enough following and say something good about the vendors' product.

Bloggers are somewhat unique in that they freely quote and cite other bloggers; it's part of what makes the blogosphere work. Early on, when blogging was considered pretty much a "fad", the only citations and quotes of bloggers were from other bloggers - vendors and trade press didn't view them as sources worthy of being cited.

That's changed quite a bit, and as you ramp up your following and become more popular and influential in your chosen blogging market, you may find that people outside the blogosphere are quoting you more often. That's a good thing - it means you're getting somewhere and that your reputation is a good one. But you may worry that your words will be taken out of context, or used inappropriately.

How do you deal with people quoting you and, just as importantly, how do you quote and cite other sources?

Plagiarism & Citations

Attribution goes two ways. When you quote someone you need to attribute it to them. When you liberally lift large chunks of text from another blog or an article, you need to cite the source. Otherwise, you're engaging in plagiarism and as we should all remember from English 101, plagiarism is a Very Bad Thing. You should ensure that there is a clear way to distinguish what you're saying from what you're pulling from other sources. Whether you use the quoting feature of your favorite blogging software, or italicize, or embed it in a fieldset tag you need to make sure you do something to make it clear that "the following words are not mine". Because that's what plagiarism really is - an attempt to co-opt someone else's words as your own, to claim or imply authorship simply by not citing the original source. While it may be true that imitation is the highest form of flattery, impersonation and theft are not. 

If you see a blog that appears to be copying your work without proper citation take a deep breath. Before you get medieval on the blogger, send him a civil comment or e-mail and ask him/her about it. It has happened in the past that a blogger - and even members of the press - has inadvertently omitted a citation. Sometimes in the process of editing and rushing to get something published pieces of text get moved, deleted, etc... so it may be an honest mistake that the content is not properly cited. So ask first, nicely, and nudge the blogger by providing the proper citation with your message to make it easier for them to edit it.

If the blogger doesn't respond or edit the post, then you can whip out whatever legal remedies you'd like. Plagiarism is often dealt with online through the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) by sending a removal notice, even though plagiarism is a matter of civil law and is not the same as copyright infringement which, as we all know from being forced to sit through the warnings at the beginnings of movies, is a federal offense. [Note: IIANAL, so consult with an attorney before making any real decisions]

Your Quotation Policies

So someone wants to quote you, that's great! How do you want to handle it?

There are several ways you can handle quotes:

  • Anyone can quote anything you've said or written, as long as it's attributed properly, without approval
  • Quotes from e-mail/verbal communication must be approved first
  • Quotes from any medium must be approved first

It's up to you to decide how you want to handle quotations. The drawbacks to requiring approval are, of course, that sometimes deadline rushed press or PR folks don't have the time to wait for your approval, so you might not get the quote. The downside of allowing anything to be quoted with proper attribution is, of course, that your words (both verbal and written) may be taken out of context.

So decide how you want to deal with quotations, and then either make sure to discuss it with the PR folks with whom you are working, or set up a page on your blog that details how you want quotations handled and point PR folks to it. If you're worried about it not being seen, then add a nice widget to the front of your blog where it can be seen that links to the right place.

If you do not have a public policy, or do not make your wishes known at the beginning of a conversation, it will be assumed by PR folks that "anyone can quote anything you've said or written as long as it's attributed properly without approval."

This is, of course, part of the reason that "off the record" exists; to counter the implied approval to quote anything you're saying.

Imbibing: Mountain Dew